American moviegoers have long turned to the Hollywood Western for reassurance in times of crisis. During the genre's heyday, the films of John Ford, Howard Hawks and Henry Hathaway reflected a grand patriotism that resonated with audiences at the end of World War II. The tried-and-true Western wasquestioned by Ford and George Stevens during the Cold War, and in the 1960s directors like Sam Peckinpah and George Roy Hill retooled the genre as a commentary on American ethics during the Vietnam War.
Between the mid-1970s and early 1990s, the Western faded from view--until the Gulf War, when Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves (1990) and Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven (1992) brought it back, with moral complexities. Since 9/11, the Western has seen a resurgence, blending its patriotic narrative with criticism of America's place in the global community. This collection of essays explores how the Western today captures the dichotomy of our times and remains important to American psyche.
The New Western
McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Critical Essays on the Genre Since 9/11